LONG POND, Pa. — Seconds after Alex Bowman apologized on the radio to his team for losing the race — or so he thought he was about to do — he was back in the lead and taking the checkered flag after Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson blew a left front tire while leading on the last lap Saturday.
“I hate to win one that way, but I’ll take it,” Bowman told NBCSN’s Marty Snider after the race.
The victory is Bowman’s third of the season and continues Hendrick Motorsports’ winning streak. Hendrick cars have won the past six points races. It has been 48 days since someone other than a Hendrick driver has won a Cup race.
MORE: Race results, driver points
“This is the strangest win I’ve ever been a part of,” Bowman said of how he won and that he couldn’t do a burnout and have an wild celebration because the series races Sunday at Pocono (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
Kyle Busch finished second. William Byron placed third and was followed by Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney.
Larson was seeking to become the first driver since 2007 to win four consecutive points races. Instead, he finished ninth with a wrecked car and will go to a backup car for Sunday’s race and start at the rear of the field. Larson said he thought he ran over something.
“Hate that we didn’t get another win,” Larson told NBCSN’s Dave Burns. “Would have been cool to win five in a row. Just wasn’t meant to be I guess today. Yeah, I felt something like right in the middle of the tunnel. Wasn’t quite sure what it was yet. It finally kind of shredded halfway through the short chute there. Couldn’t turn.”
A key moment came on the restart on Lap 112. Bowman was fourth when the drivers came to choose their restart lane. The top three drivers took the top lane. Bowman moved to the bottom lane and restarted on the front row next to Busch, the leader. With a push from Blaney, Bowman charged to the lead.
“Thanks to Blaney for the push,” Bowman said. “He pushed me all the way to the center of one, never tried to get out of line, never tried to do anything, ultimately got us out front. Big thank you to him. Much appreciated.”
Once in the lead, Bowman had control and held off Kyle Larson for several laps once Larson moved to second.
“Getting the lead from a guy like Kyle Busch on a late restart is not easy to do,” Bowman said. “Definitely gives me confidence going forward.”
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kurt Busch
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Denny Hamlin’s fourth-place finish marks his first top-five finish in the last six races. … Kurt Busch’s sixth-place finish is his third consecutive top-10 finish.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Cole Custer crashed after contact from behind by Brad Keselowski. Custer finished last in the 38-car field. He’ll start at the rear for Sunday’s race because he’ll go to a backup car.
NOTABLE: Alex Bowman’s three wins tie him with Martin Truex Jr. for second in victories this season. Kyle Larson has a series-high four Cup points wins.
NEXT: The series races Sunday at Pocono Raceway to complete the weekend doubleheader. Race is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Take a look at what happened between @ColeCuster and Brad @Keselowski early at @PoconoRaceway. #NASCAR
Custer's day is done, and Keselowski has front-end damage.
STREAM: https://t.co/n1fatd5ETT pic.twitter.com/svpcQ2tteN
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) June 26, 2021